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The NFL Rule Change That Will Drastically Affect Fans

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

The Stipulations

This NFL rule change received 24 of 32 votes from the owners to be approved. That is the minimum amount of votes necessary to make any rule change in the NFL. There are some rules put in place to limit the damage this could have on fans’ pockets.

The rules state that no more than two games can be flexed into the Thursday night slot. The NFL also has to make this change at least 28 days before the game is played. No team can be flexed into the Thursday night game more than once, and no team is allowed to play more than two Thursday night games on the season. These rules will only be set for one year if there are any games flexed and voted on again next off-season, but will carry over into 2024 if no games are flexed.

Impact on Fans

Now 28 days may be enough time for NFL teams to adjust, but most fans buy tickets more than four weeks before a game. Especially if they are traveling a long way to attend the game. The fans impacted by this the most are arguably some of the biggest fans out there too. These are the fans that are willing to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to go see their team play. This is going to cause some serious pushback if a game does actually get moved this season.

NFL Games In Question

Week 13: Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys

Week 14: New England Patriots @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 15: Los Angles Chargers @ Las Vegas Raiders

Week 16: New Orleans Saints @ Los Angeles Rams

Week 17: New York Jets @ Cleveland Browns

As of May 25th, all of these teams have an expected win total of at least 7.5 games (although I’d take the under on the Rams) and at least one team in each game has an expected win total of 8.5 games according to Ceasars Sportsbook. These games will all likely have playoff implications but let’s look at some other options that could potentially replace them.

Potential Week 13 Replacements

Current Thursday Night Football (TNF) Game: Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys

Potential Flex: San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles

The expected win total for the 49ers and Eagles are 11.5 and 10.5 games, respectively, and both teams are the betting favorite to win their division so this game will definitely have playoff implications. These two teams arguably have the best defenses in the league. The 49ers and Eagles met each other in the NFC Championship game last year but Brock Purdy injured his throwing elbow on the first offensive drive for San Francisco.

With a lot of speculation surrounding how that game would have finished with a healthy Purdy, there will be a lot of hype surrounding this rematch, so this game could easily replace the Seahawks/Cowboys clash on Thursday Night. The biggest factor keeping this game from being moved is the Cowboy’s massive fan base.

I believe the reason this rule has been put in place is to protect the NFL’s new partner, Amazon. Amazon did after all pay 13 billion dollars for their 11-year contract with the NFL. Last year there was talk about how a lot of the Thursday Night Football games were not competitive. Amazon is looking for viewers, and with the Cowboys’ fan base, they will have no problem getting people to watch this game.

Potential Week 14 Replacements

Current TNF Game: New England Patriots @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Potential Flex: Jacksonville Jaguars @ Cleveland Browns

One of the games that could have replaced this Thursday Night game is the Kansas City Chiefs @ Buffalo Bills. However, the Chiefs already have two scheduled TNF games, and as I mentioned earlier, two TNF games is the cap so that takes this game out of contention.

Other games that will likely have playoff implications are the Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers, and Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys. However, all of these games have teams who play on TNF either one week before or after Week 14. This is one of the many tricky parts of making a schedule for 32 teams. Not having teams play on Thursday back-to-back weeks and the two-game cap will decrease the likelihood of TNF games getting flexed.

With those four games ruled out, Jacksonville at Cleveland would be the next most likely game to replace Week 14’s Thursday Night contest. These two teams have an expected win total of 9.5 and 8.5 games on the season, respectively, and both have playoff aspirations.

The Jaguars are the betting favorites to win their division whereas both the Steelers and the Patriots are the betting favorites to finish last in their division. Cleveland is expected to finish third in their division according to DraftKings Sportsbook at this time but has made steady improvements to their team throughout the off-season. If Deshaun Watson can return to his 2020 form, Cleveland will have a solid chance to win their division or at least make a run for a wildcard spot.

Similar to the current Week 13 TNF game, the Patriots and Steelers both have massive fan bases. According to a study published by Samford University, the Patriots have the second biggest fan base and the Steelers have the sixth. This alone could pull enough viewers to keep this game in the Thursday Night slot.

Potential Week 15 Replacements

Current TNF Game: Los Angles Chargers @ Las Vegas Raiders

Potential Flex: Minnesota Vikings @ Cincinnati Bengals

One of the headlines for this game would be the matchup against old LSU teammates, Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase. I would project these two young explosive players to put up some big numbers against their opponent’s weaker secondaries. The Chargers and Raiders are divisional rivals but of the five TNF games this year in flex contention, I would say this is the second most likely game to get moved.

Potential Week 16 Replacements

Current TNF Game: New Orleans Saints @ Los Angeles Rams

Potential Flex: Dallas Cowboys @ Miami Dolphins

The New Orleans Saints at the Los Angeles Rams is the game I think is most likely to get moved this year. There are a number of options to replace this game. These games include the Buffalo Bills at the Los Angeles Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens at the San Francisco 49ers. I decided to highlight the Dallas Cowboys at Miami Dolphins as the most likely option due to the Chargers being scheduled to play TNF the week before and the 49ers already being an option to be flexed into a Thursday Night game in Week 13.

The Dolphins do however have the same projected win total as the Jets on the season. I think they are just as likely to take second place as the Jets are. These teams will be fighting for the highest-seeded Wild Card spot towards the end of the season so this game will have a huge impact around the league. As I mentioned earlier the Cowboys have the biggest fan base in the league and would easily draw a large viewing audience should they replace the currently scheduled TNF game.

Potential Week 17 Replacements

Current TNF Game: New York Jets @ Cleveland Browns

Potential Flex: New England @ Buffalo Bills

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Aaron Rodgers is replaced in a primetime game. Especially toward the end of his career while his team very well could be fighting for a playoff spot. If there was a scenario where that happens I could see it being one of two games. Either the Miami Dolphins at the Baltimore Ravens or the New England Patriots at the Buffalo Bills. The Dolphins and Ravens played each other in the game of the year last season. Miami scored 28 points in the fourth quarter through a few deep connections between Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill to come back and win. This would be a fun one to watch.

The reason I chose New England at Buffalo is solely because I have Miami as a potential flex game in Week 16. New England and Buffalo have a heated rivalry and tend to play scrappy games. With this game taking place in Buffalo, this has the potential to be one of those classic snow games where players are battling the elements as much as they’re battling each other. At the end of the day though I believe Buffalo would be able to handle the Patriots. I doubt the Jets get flexed out of a game at the end of the season unless Aaron Rodgers is injured and both teams are out of contention.

Summary

Ultimately, I think this NFL rule change hurts fans far more than it helps them. If fans want to watch these other competitive games on TV, they will have that option when they are scheduled on Sunday. The fans that travel from all over the country to watch their team play deserve to know that their plans won’t be changed after committing so much time and money to watch the teams they love.

 

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